Weather: With apologies to Charles Dickens

Being the first part of a ghostly tale of meteorological angst.

McCaskill was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. His funeral had been personally supervised by his partner Ebenezer Fysshe, who, anxious to ensure the best possible turn-out, had arranged it to take place under the optimal anticipated climatic conditions. It belted down with rain, as it turned out, but Fysshe put it down to an unpredictable surge in El Nino bringing moist air from the Atlantic, cooled to precipitation point by the winds caused by an unexpectedly severe anticyclone over Scandinavia.

That sad event of the summer had now all but faded from Ebenezer's memory as he was settling down to sleep after delivering his last forecast before Christmas. Like all good weathermen, he found Christmas a period of great tension. To snow or not to snow, that was the question.

This year, however, had been easier than most. After a cold and blustery start to the month, the snow had disappeared from all but the highest ground in the most northerly areas. The prevailing south-westerlies might bring rain, especially to the west of the country and coastal areas, but the chances of snow were negligible. Or so he had told the nation.

Thus it was with only mild trepidation that Fysshe settled down for a well-earned night's sleep. As always, he glanced at the weather map before turning off the light and saw the reassuring isobars confirming his forecast. Then, with a start, he removed his hand from the light switch and stared again. For Ebenezer had been startled to see in the isobars, without their undergoing any intermediate process of change, the face of his old colleague McCaskill.

McCaskill's face, with a dismal light about it, looking as McCaskill used to look, with ghostly spectacles propped upon ghostly nose. Fysshe viewed this phenomenon with a feeling of horror, yet as he stared, it became a weather map again. He said: "Pooh, pooh," sipped the last dregs of his cocoa and turned off the light.

Yet a strange creaking noise prevented him from sleeping. He sat bolt upright and stared at the point on the wall whence it came. An old, disused barometer was swinging, though no draught was perceptible, nor any other force that might have set it in motion. A clanking sound followed - and then, through the wall, came the apparition, taking the barometer with it.

The same face. The very same. Though Fysshe saw it, he could not believe it. Festooned in charts, thermometers, barometers and umbrellas, this was the face and form of Jacob McCaskill. And he was accompanied by two still more chilling apparitions.

"What do you want with me?" shrieked Fysshe.

"Hello," said the apparition. "Have you met my assistants? They're the forecasters of Christmas past and present."

"Why do you trouble me?" asked Fysshe plaintively.

"I wear the charts I forged in life," said the ghost. "Without the visits from my assistants, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread."

The first assistant then approached Fysshe, saying, in a deathly voice, "I am the forecaster of Christmas Past." The apparition took Ebenezer's hand. A chill moment later, Ebenezer found himself in a television studio of his youth. He covered his eyes with his hand, but the apparition said: "You must look."

Reluctantly Fysshe did as he was bid and saw a young weather forecaster, confidently delivering an endpiece to camera: "A lady just phoned ..." he began.

"No!" shrieked Ebenezer. "Not that! I was so young. This is a nightmare. Set me free!"

"Watch!" commanded the ghost. And Fysshe heard the young forecaster say "... there isn't going to be a hurricane."

Then everything went blank.

The concluding part of this tale will appear tomorrow.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine